GMAT x GRE by MBA House

GMAT vs GRE: Differences and the Preferred Choice for Business Schools

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If you’re preparing for a career in business, chances are you’re contemplating whether to take the GMAT or GRE exam. Both exams play a crucial role in business school applications and can be your bridge towards fulfilling an elite business degree. So, how do you choose? Which one do the business school prefer? Well, there’s no need to scratch your head off in confusion. You’re about to unravel the differences and decide which one suits you better. 
GMAT vs GRE: Differences and the Preferred Choice for Business Schools

  • GMAT: Short for Graduate Management Admission Test, this exam is tailor-made for business school prospects, laden with questions to evaluate your critical thinking and problem-solving abilities with a business-oriented twist.
  • GRE: The Graduate Record Examination is a broader test, made for various graduate programs. Its eye on a wider variety of subjects allows for assessing a spectrum of skills.

Remember, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to standardized tests. The best choice hinges on your professional aspirations, individual strengths, and preferences. Starting your journey towards a successful business career involves understanding the variances between these two assessments and accurately selecting the one that best aligns with your academic and professional goals.

Key Differences Between GMAT and GRE

Primary PurposePrimarily used for business school admissionsAccepted for most graduate programs (including business and law)
Type of ExamAssesses skills relevant to business managementA general exam focusing on analytical writing, verbal, and quantitative skills
Verbal Section FocusFocuses on meaning and logicVocabulary intensive
Argument AnalysisYou analyze what has been arguedYou do the arguing
Popularity among Business SchoolsPreferred for business education, especially in top rankingsAccepted but with less preference, especially among lower-ranked institutes

Which Test is Preferred by Top Business Schools?

Business schools generally prefer the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) over the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) for MBA admissions. The GMAT is tailored to evaluate skills pertinent to business and management education, including quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, and data analysis. Consequently, numerous business schools regard the GMAT as a more appropriate tool for assessing candidates’ potential success in MBA programs.

However, some business schools also accept GRE scores, providing applicants with an alternative option. The GRE is a more widely applicable test used for admission to various graduate programs beyond business, including fields like arts and sciences. Although the GRE may not be as tailored to business education as the GMAT, it still offers insights into an applicant’s academic abilities and suitability for graduate-level studies.

In the end, the choice between GMAT and GRE may differ among various business schools. Prospective MBA candidates should carefully examine the individual requirements of the schools they plan to apply to and select the appropriate test accordingly.

Additionally, some schools may weigh other factors, such as work experience, undergraduate GPA, essays, and letters of recommendation, alongside standardized test scores when evaluating applicants.

Why Do Business Schools Prefer the GMAT Over the GRE?

Relevance: The GMAT is specifically designed to assess skills that are directly relevant to business and management education. The test comprises sections on quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, and data analysis, all of which are vital for MBA program success. Consequently, business schools frequently regard the GMAT as a more precise gauge of an applicant’s preparedness for graduate-level business studies.

Tradition: The GMAT has been the standard admissions test for MBA programs for several decades. Many business schools have a long-standing tradition of using the GMAT to evaluate applicants, and they may have established benchmarks and score ranges that they use to assess candidates’ suitability for their programs.

Predictive Validity: Research studies have shown that GMAT scores exhibit a reasonable level of predictive validity for graduate business school performance. In other words, there exists a correlation between GMAT scores and students’ academic achievements in MBA programs. Business schools frequently leverage this predictive validity as a factor in their admissions decisions.

Comparability: Because the GMAT is designed specifically for business and management education, it allows business schools to compare applicants more directly. The GMAT score provides a standardized measure that admissions committees can use to evaluate candidates from diverse educational backgrounds and experiences.

Benchmarking: Business schools often use GMAT scores as a benchmark for evaluating applicants’ academic abilities and potential. A high GMAT score can signal to admissions committees that an applicant has the quantitative, verbal, and analytical skills necessary to excel in their MBA program.

Although some business schools do accept GRE scores alongside GMAT scores, the factors outlined above typically lead to a predominant preference for the GMAT in MBA admissions. Nonetheless, it’s crucial to acknowledge that the importance attributed to standardized test scores may differ among various business schools, and some institutions may evaluate a variety of factors beyond test scores when determining admissions.

Which Math is Harder: GMAT or GRE?

The difficulty of the quantitative sections on the GMAT and GRE can vary depending on individual strengths and weaknesses, as well as the specific questions presented in each test. However, there are some general differences in the quantitative sections of the GMAT and GRE that may influence perceptions of difficulty:

  • Both the GMAT and GRE evaluate your quantitative reasoning abilities, yet they approach it somewhat differently. The GMAT tends to lean towards complex problem-solving scenarios, notably in the Data Sufficiency components, where examinees are tasked with assessing data instead of solving problems outright. Conversely, the GRE’s quantitative section usually presents more straight-to-the-point problem-solving questions, akin to your standard math exams.
  • In terms of subject focus, the GMAT emphasizes data comprehension, analytical thinking, and complex reasoning skills. Conversely, the GRE’s quantitative section covers a broader range of mathematical topics, including geometry, algebra, and basic arithmetic, with less emphasis on reasoning abilities.
  • In the quantitative section, the GRE offers an on-screen calculator, aiding in quick and accurate calculations. Conversely, the GMAT prohibits calculator usage (except for the Data Insights session), requiring test-takers to rely more on mental arithmetic and estimation skills. This disparity in calculator allowance can impact the perceived difficulty level of quantitative questions on each test.
  • It’s worth noting that both GMAT and GRE employ adaptive testing methods. This means the complexity of the questions varies according to the test-taker’s answers. However, GMAT stands out as its adaptability is a notch higher. It doesn’t just adjust the difficulty of the questions, but even the type of questions based on the candidate’s responses. Consequently, some test-takers may find GMAT’s math section a tad more challenging, particularly if they find certain question types to be tough.

In summary, determining whether the quantitative section of the GMAT is more challenging than the quantitative section of the GRE hinges on several factors, such as an individual’s mathematical proficiency, familiarity with question formats, and comfort level with calculator usage.

For some test-takers, the GMAT’s focus on critical thinking and data interpretation may pose a greater challenge, whereas others might encounter difficulties with the GRE’s wider array of mathematical topics. Ultimately, thorough preparation for the chosen exam is crucial, ensuring familiarity with its distinct format and question types.


Choosing between the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) and the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) for MBA program admission can significantly impact your academic and professional path. Both exams are widely recognized by business schools globally, each with distinct features. Ultimately, the decision hinges on your strengths, preferences, and the particular prerequisites of the programs you’re targeting.

The GMAT is specifically designed for business school applicants and focuses on assessing analytical, quantitative, verbal, and integrated reasoning skills. It has been the traditional choice for MBA aspirants for many years, and many business schools have historically preferred it.

The GRE is a more generalized test accepted by a broad spectrum of graduate programs, including MBA programs. It evaluates analytical writing, verbal reasoning, and quantitative reasoning skills. Although it may not be designed specifically for business school applicants, an expanding number of MBA programs now welcome GRE scores, granting candidates greater flexibility in their application procedures.

So, which test should you choose? Here are some tips from MBA House:

Assess your strengths and weaknesses in each test’s respective areas. If you excel in quantitative reasoning and analytical skills, you might find the GMAT more suitable. Conversely, if your strengths lie in verbal reasoning or if you’re more comfortable with a broader range of subjects, the GRE might be a better fit.

Research the specific MBA programs you’re interested in applying to. Some programs may have a preference for one test over the other, or they may have no preference at all. Make sure to check the admissions requirements of each program to ensure you’re meeting their expectations.

Consider the availability of study materials and preparation resources for each test. Look into prep courses, practice exams, and study guides for both the GMAT and GRE to determine which test aligns better with your study preferences and schedule.

Familiarize yourself with the retake policies for each exam. Understanding how soon you can retake the test and the number of retake attempts allowed is crucial if you’re not satisfied with your initial score.

Ultimately, there’s no universal answer to whether you should opt for the GMAT or GRE for your MBA application. It’s vital to assess your options thoughtfully, taking into account your strengths, preferences, and the criteria of the programs you’re targeting. Regardless of your choice, thorough preparation and a strategic approach will be essential for attaining your desired score and securing admission to your preferred MBA program.